Rosetta is awake and ready to rendezvous with a comet - Tucson News Now

Rosetta is awake and ready to rendezvous with a comet

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Credit: ESA/ Rosetta/ MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/ UPD / LAM/ IAA/ SSO/ INTA/ UPM/ DASP/ IDA Credit: ESA/ Rosetta/ MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/ UPD / LAM/ IAA/ SSO/ INTA/ UPM/ DASP/ IDA

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta is ready to do something no other spacecraft has ever done: orbit and land on a comet. 

Rosetta will study Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As the comet moves closer to the sun, the frozen core has started shedding gas and dust, creating a tail.

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

A sequence of images showing comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko moving against a background star field in the constellation Ophiuchus between 27 March and 4 May 2014, as the distance between the spacecraft and comet closed from around 5 million to 2 million kilometers. The comet (and Rosetta) were between 640 million km and 610 million km from the Sun during the sequence. The comet is seen to develop a dust coma as the sequence progresses, with clear activity already visible in late-April. Exposure times are 720 seconds for each image, taken with the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera. The globular cluster M107 is also clearly visible in the field of view.

Launched in 2004, Rosetta has spent the last 10 years traveling through space. The last few years many of the instruments were in hibernation as Rosetta waited for its rendezvous with the comet. In January, scientists powered up Rosetta and everything is good to go as the mission moves toward collecting data from the comet. 

Rosetta will meet up with the comet in August. Then in November a lander will depart from Rosetta and land on the comet. The lander will anchor itself by drilling into the comet in order to study the make-up of the nucleus. 

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